Bloggers celebrate as Cuba unblocks their sites

The Cuban government has lifted access restrictions on the more than 40 of the country’s dissent bloggers’ websites, continuing the apparent drawdown in attacks against the opposition, which included the release of political prisoners last year, the Miami Herald reports.

The bloggers immediately celebrated the decision, which took them by surprise. Award-winning journalist Yoani Sánchez wrote on her Generation Y blog that this was the first week since March of 2008 that her site could be accessed from Cuba.

"I’m so surprised I shout and the camera watching from the ceiling records the fillings in my teeth as I laugh uncontrollably. After three years, my virtual space is again sighted from inside Cuba,” she writes.

The journalist says she does not know the motives behind the apparent change, but she ventured that the regime saw that blocking the sites was counterproductive by making the sites a bigger draw for Internet users. Sánchez also said that perhaps it was meant to coincide with the 2011 International Computer Science Fair in order to project an image of tolerance and give the impression that citizens were gaining more rights to free expression.

International blogs, like Blogging by Boz, saw the change also as a response to the new high-speed fiber optic cable from Venezuela, which negates any technical excuses the government might use to restrict online content. However, Dow Jones writes that in spite of the cable, the authorities still “fear that greater Internet access could be used by dissidents to undermine the regime.”

Cuban Voices and From Cuba, the sites that host Sánchez and other bloggers, were unblocked right at the moment when a video surfaced of an alleged Cuban official discussing risks to the government from the web. “The Internet is a battlefield,” he declares.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.